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Dr. James Gifford speaks at Palmer Lecture Series at Cumberlands


Williamsburg, Ky. – University of the Cumberlands (UC) hosted a segment of the Palmer Lecture series on April 22 in Luecker Auditorium, which was presented by Dr. James Gifford. As an educator, Dr. Gifford spoke about the importance of education in the lives of everyone and one of his heroes, Jesse Stuart.

“Good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal,” Dr. Gifford quoted from Stuart.

Stuart was a Kentuckian and one of the fathers of education for the Commonwealth. Gifford explained how Stuart’s goal was to make education a necessity rather than the luxury it was believed to be. Stuart became a teacher while he was still in high school and he continued to teach and write books about the importance of education, including “The Thread That Runs So True: A Mountain School Teacher Tells His Story,” which was introduced to Gifford in the eighth grade by his grandmother.

“My life is a testimony to what books can do,” Gifford said.

Gifford carried Stuart’s message throughout his speech and often cited how the problems Stuart saw in the education system in the early 1900s can be found in today’s education system in the state. Schools have been entertaining students when they can no longer discipline them, which don’t properly educate them according to Gifford. Also, schools have taken more responsibility in shaping young people during their formative years.

“My presentation is not intended to be an isolated criticism of our schools,” Gifford said.

Gifford made several suggestions of how to properly teach children based on what he learned from teaching and what he learned from Stuart. It was his final message, in which he hoped everyone would remember. “Teach children to enjoy reading, to work because there is dignity in work that only workers can understand, to live within their needs, to obey the law, and to love God and follow His commandments.”

Gifford is the CEO and Senior Editor of the Jesse Stuart Foundation. He has a B.A. degree from Maryville College, a M.A. from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He is a seasoned educator and author, having published several historical, literary and educational journals, with several having a focus on Jesse Stuart. He partnered with Erin Kazee to write and publish “Jesse Stuart: An Extraordinary Life.”

The idea for a lecture series to commemorate Dr. Robert L. Palmer’s many years of dedicated service to Cumberland College originated with Dr. Palmer’s nephew, Mr. John L. Palmer, a prominent businessman from Jackson, Mississippi, and later U. S. Ambassador to Portugal. His generous gift established the annual lecture series bringing outstanding authors to the Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) campus. So honoring Dr. Palmer is appropriate, for he was a man who loved and respected the power of the written word to please and to instruct.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; ten pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas; including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information, visit

Article provided by Amanda Kelly, UC Multimedia and Athletic Services Department